Nine police forces have announced today (Thursday, November 10) that they have teamed up for one of the biggest rural crime crackdowns of its kind in the UK.

Northumbria Police will join with forces across the North of England in a region-wide Community Protection Notice (CPN) against cross-border poachers and rural offenders.

Work has began under the banner of ‘Operation Hawkeye’ to help protect rural communities and target criminals who travel between counties to commit crime.

The move will hand police and the courts significantly greater powers to combat and prosecute serial cross-border criminals who breach their CPN conditions by repeatedly targeting rural victims.

Northumbria Police’s deputy chief constable, Debbie Ford, said: “This is a significant and innovative move that will help us combat rural crime not only in Northumbria but across the North of England.

“It is one of the biggest collective crackdowns of its kind in the UK and should send a clear message to those who target our most remote communities – rural crime will not be tolerated.

“Tackling and preventing rural crime is a priority for the force and this latest initiative builds on the extensive work already underway with our partners.

“The initiative will see a collaboration between forces to share intelligence and jointly prosecute poachers and offenders who travel across borders to attempt to disguise their criminality.

“By working together, we can continue to protect our communities and bring effective justice against perpetrators,” she concluded.

The innovative new scheme, supported by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), means offenders who commit offences across multiple counties can be prosecuted jointly by the respective forces.

Before this, if someone committed an offence in one force area and then travelled to a different county to carry out a second offence, both cases would have been heard in isolation.

Northumbria Police have been supported by Cleveland Police, Durham Constabulary, Cumbria Constabulary, Humberside Police, North Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police and Lancashire Police in the new initiative.

New project welcomed

William Maughan, chair of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) for North Riding and Durham, welcomed the multi-force initiative.

He said: “It is very encouraging to see police forces across our region working together to make things more difficult for those intent on committing wildlife crime – especially as our most recent rural crime survey highlighted the significant impact of crimes such as poaching and hare coursing on farmers across the region.

“In total, 51 per cent of respondents said they were subjected to regular farm invasions.

“For years, criminals have taken advantage of cross-border differences between police forces, so having consistent measures in place across nine force areas is a huge step forward.

“Hopefully the farming community and the region’s much-loved wildlife will reap the rewards of this hard-fought drive to clamp down on rural crime,” he concluded.

Cross-border initiative

The scheme has also been welcomed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Duncan Thomas, BASC north director, said: “This commendable initiative is a fantastic example of collaborative and progressive work. For years, quality police action has often simply displaced this type of criminal activity into neighbouring areas. This cross-border initiative will help tackle these abhorrent crimes.”

CLA rural adviser, Libby Bateman said:

“It is encouraging to see police forces across the North of England working together on this initiative. Criminals are transient, often moving across large distances to seek-out areas of lower resistance. 

“These new CPNs continue to apply to individuals as they traverse force boundaries, meaning the risk of further sanctions and ultimately a criminal conviction also travels with them.”